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What is the most puppies a dog has ever had?

Having a litter of puppies can be an exciting time for dog owners, but large litters come with their own set of challenges. While the average litter size for dogs is around 6 puppies, some dogs can have exceptionally large litters with over a dozen puppies. So what’s the record for the most puppies born in one litter? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest litters on record and the dogs that gave birth to them.

Typical Litter Sizes for Dogs

The average litter size for dogs varies by breed. Small dogs tend to have smaller litters, with breeds like Chihuahuas averaging around 3 puppies per litter. Medium sized dogs usually have moderate litter sizes, with Beagles and Cocker Spaniels averaging 5-6 puppies. Large and giant breeds tend to have the biggest litters, with Great Danes averaging 8 puppies and Irish Wolfhounds averaging 11 per litter.

There are many factors that affect litter size, including the mother’s age, health, and nutrition during pregnancy. Usually dogs have smaller litters the first time they give birth and larger litters in subsequent pregnancies. The father’s breed and genes can also play a role.

Factors Affecting Litter Size

  • Mother’s age – Usually smaller litters for first time mothers, larger litters for mature mothers
  • Mother’s health & nutrition – Healthy, well-nourished mothers can support larger litters
  • Genetics – Some breeds genetically predisposed to having larger litters
  • Father’s breed – Larger fathers may produce larger litters

While most dog litters range from 1 to 12 puppies, occasionally puppy counts exceed a dozen and break records. Let’s look at some of the biggest dog litters ever documented.

Record Holding Large Dog Litters

Here are some of the largest litters ever recorded by verified sources:

24 Puppies – Most Puppies in a Single Litter

In November, 2004, a Neopolitan Mastiff named Tia gave birth to 24 puppies in the UK. This broke the previous Guinness World Record for the most puppies in a single litter. Initially, 25 puppies were born but sadly one was stillborn. Raising such a huge litter was extremely challenging for Tia. Thankfully, with supplemental feeding from the dedicated breeders, all 24 surviving puppies thrived.

20 Puppies – English Mastiff Litter

In March 2021, a 3-year-old English Mastiff named Luna gave birth to 20 puppies via Caesarean section in Gilroy, California. The father was a Neopolitan Mastiff named Onyx. All 20 puppies survived thanks to round-the-clock care and bottle feeding by the breeders and veterinary staff. The massive litter included 10 boys and 10 girls.

19 Puppies – Australian Labradoodle Litter

In October 2022, an Australian Labradoodle named Molly gave birth to 19 puppies at Grace Family Ranch in Milton, Florida. She delivered 9 females and 10 males with no complications. The owners were shocked by the abnormally large litter. All the puppies were healthy and doing well thanks to supplemental bottle feeding.

17 Puppies – Black and Tan Coonhound Litter

In February 2021, a Black and Tan Coonhound named Daisy gave birth to 17 puppies at Avellino Labradors and Doodles in Newman, California. This beat the facility’s previous record of 16 puppies in a litter. Sadly, one puppy was stillborn bringing the count to 16 surviving puppies – 9 girls and 7 boys. The owners were thrilled that the large litter all survived.

16 Puppies – Bernese Mountain Dog Litter

In January 2017, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Chloe gave birth to 16 puppies in Cambridge, Vermont. She delivered 6 males and 10 females without complications. Chloe was an experienced mother but no one expected her to have such an enormous litter. The breeders worked diligently to nurse and care for all the puppies.

Dangers of Large Dog Litters

While big litters may seem impressive, they come with increased health risks for both the mother and puppies. Here are some of the dangers of extra large litters:

  • Difficult births and increased risk of needing a C-section
  • Maternal exhaustion from carrying and nursing a heavy litter
  • Insufficient colostrum and nutrition for each puppy
  • Puppies may be weaker, smaller, or less healthy
  • Higher mortality rates if puppies are not supplemented
  • Puppies may need to be hand-raised by humans

To help mitigate the risks, breeders keeping close watch for any signs of distress and be prepared to intervene with supplemental feeding or veterinary care. Rotating puppies gives each one adequate time to nurse. Record breaking litters require an exceptional amount of dedication from owners for all the puppies to thrive.

Key Factors in Large Litters

Several key factors come into play when dogs have such unusually high numbers of puppies. Here are some of the reasons behind extra large litters:

  • Older, robust dams – Experienced mothers can better nurture large litters
  • Excellent prenatal nutrition – Provides the resources to sustain big litters
  • Breed predisposition – Some breeds prone to big litters like Mastiffs
  • Genetic lottery – More released eggs get fertilized and develop
  • Fertile stud – Some sires have genetics for siring mega-litters

In addition to these factors, breeding extremely large dogs like Mastiffs increases the odds of high puppy counts. The biggest litters tend to come from giant breed dogs bred to another giant breed. But even with the perfect conditions, breeders are often astonished when puppy counts rise far beyond the normal range.

Notable Breeds for Large Litters

While any dog can have a sizable litter, these breeds are particularly noted for having large litters:

Mastiff Breeds

As we’ve seen, Mastiff breeds top the charts when it comes to massive litters. Breeds like the Neapolitan Mastiff, English Mastiff, Bullmastiff, and Tibetan Mastiff all have genetics for producing well over a dozen puppies. Mastiffs are enormous, powerful dogs so they have the room to carry and nurse a heavy litter.

Saint Bernards

The huge Saint Bernard is another breed associated with big litters. Average litter sizes are 10-12 puppies. With their large frames and easy-going temperaments, Saint Bernards handle oversized litters well.

Great Danes

Great Danes are one of the biggest dog breeds and are known to produce litters averaging 8-12 puppies. Their capacity for having sizable litters contributed to their near extinction early on.

Irish Wolfhounds

Another gentle giant breed, Irish Wolfhounds also have a predisposition for large litters. They have an average litter size of 11 puppies. Due to their accelerated growth, extra diligence is needed when they have oversized litters.

Afghan Hounds

Elegant Afghan Hounds are a large breed that regularly has litters of 10 or more puppies. It’s not uncommon for well-bred Afghan Hounds to have 14-15 puppies. Their laidback personalities help them handle the demands of big litters.

Challenges of Raising Large Litters

While everyone loves puppies, caring for a mega-litter comes with immense challenges for owners. Here are some of the biggest obstacles of raising an exceptionally large litter:

  • Insufficient nutrition – Too many puppies can lead to malnutrition
  • Fading puppy syndrome – Weaker puppies may fade and die
  • Difficulty nursing – Competition for ample nursing time
  • Bottlenecking – Puppies bottle up trying to nurse
  • Exhaustion – Constant care and supervision required
  • Housing – Adequate space needed for eating, sleeping, playing
  • Training – Extra time needed for housebreaking and obedience
  • Vet care – Higher costs for checkups, vaccines, deworming

To counter these challenges, breeders must provide 24/7 monitoring and be ready to supplement feed using milk replacers. Rotating puppies gives each one adequate nursing time. Extra staffing and accommodations are needed to properly socialize and care for the higher puppy count.

Supplemental Feeding Best Practices

When it comes to nourishing oversized litters, supplemental bottle or tube feeding is almost always required. Here are some best practices for supplemental feeding giant litters:

  • Rotate nursing schedule – Ensure all puppies get colostrum and milk
  • Weigh daily – Track weight gains and losses
  • Offer milk replacer – Supplement with puppy formula
  • Stimulate to urinate/defecate – Help puppies eliminate after eating
  • Keep warm – Maintain temperature of 85-90°F
  • Disinfect supplies – Bottles, tubes, bowls after each use
  • Seek vet guidance – Follow veterinary protocols

With diligent supplemental feeding, even the largest litters can grow big and strong. Extra care is imperative since each puppy gets less nursing time and maternal antibodies. Constant monitoring and weighing ensures no puppy falls behind.

Future Health Considerations

Raising a high count litter requires intense management now, but owners should also consider future health implications. Here are some long-term factors to keep in mind:

  • Higher risk of congential defects – Physical and neurologic disorders
  • Increased chance of disease – Due to lower immunity
  • Potential for developmental issues – Stunted growth if undernourished
  • Higher vet costs – For treatments down the road
  • Behavior issues – From insufficient socialization
  • Lifelong small stature – Due to nutritional deficit as puppies

By properly nurturing oversized litters through their critical developmental stages, owners can reduce risks and set the puppies up for long-term health. But careful monitoring is always advised for these high count litters.

Final Thoughts

While the most puppies in one litter on record is 24, litters over a dozen puppies remain extremely rare. Having a litter that huge requires the perfect storm of an experienced dam from a large breed, excellent prenatal care, and ideal genetics. Even then the puppies require round-the-clock care and supplementation to survive.

The biggest litters provide a fascinating look into canine reproduction capabilities. But the monumental task of nourishing and raising that many puppies is not to be taken lightly. It takes epic dedication from breeders for oversized litters to thrive. With intensive support, these high puppy counts create delightful – if exhausting – memories.